Golly gosh…my family love this cake. Whenever I present one of these at a special occasion dinner, you can literally hear their lips smacking together… and then follows an obligatory silence, interrupted only by the occasional “mmmmmm” and the clinkering of cutlery on plates. Needless to say, there are never any leftovers.
This cake goes by many names.. Mille-Feuille, Mille Foglie, Gateaux Napoleon, Vanilla Slice, Cream Slice, Custard Slice, Crèmeschnitte, Tompouce… so the list goes on. But regardless of what you call it…This cake is a SHOW STOPPER!!
With the heavy scent of spring in the air, I decided to decorate my cake with edible flowers. I found a fabulous list of edible blooms at sustainablebabysteps.com, and set about giving them the taste test. I must say.. I was eager the taste the sweet smelling freesias which popped up in the garden…but was taken aback by their overwhelming spiciness..whoa!! Note to self: use them to decorate the table..not the cake!
- I like to prepare the custard base (without the cream and liqueur) a day ahead, making sure it has cooled completely in the fridge.
- Assemble the cake as close as you can to serving time. The pastry layers will begin to lose their crispness after 12 hours.
- You will need two baking trays for this recipe (see pics).
- My favourite way to serve this cake is accompanied with fresh fruit such as berries, kiwi and passionfruit.
- Use a serrated knife to cut and serve the cake.
For the custard:
1/2 vanilla bean
40g plain flour
40g corn starch
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup whipped cream (preferable pure cream)
2 tbsp Grand Marnier or other sweet liqueur
For the Pastry:
270g butter puff pastry (already rolled)
6 tbs raw sugar
fruit/flowers for decorating
icing sugar for dusting
For the custard base:
Place approximately two thirds of the milk and sugar into a pot, and the remaining third of the milk and sugar into a bowl.
Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Place the vanilla pod and seeds in the pot and heat gently to infuse the flavours.
In the meantime, set aside the flour into a small bowl. In a seperate bowl, whisk the yolks into the cold bowl of milk.
Once the pot of milk is boiling, add the flour to the cold bowl of milk, then gradually pour in the hot milk and whisk the ingredients together.
Strain the mixture using a sieve and pour it back into the pot and cook gently until the mixture comes to the boil. Be sure to stir it continuously to avoid lumpy custard.
Once the custard has come to the boil, it will be very thick. You may wish to swap your whisk for a spoon and continue cooking on a gentle heat for a few more minutes.
Take the custard off the heat and immediately cover with cling wrap. The cling wrap needs to sit directly on the surface of the custard. This will prevent a skin from forming.
Set aside to cool.
For the pastry:
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Cut the pastry sheets so that you have three pieces of pastry, approximately 20x10cm and place on the tray. Sprinkle generously with raw sugar. (The sugar will caramelise during the cooking process and give your pastry a little extra crunch).
Place in the oven for approximately 7 minutes. Times will vary depending on your oven. Your aim it to cook the pastry to the point where it is beginning to rise, but is still raw in the middle.
Place a sheet of baking paper on top of the pastry, and then a heavy baking tray (or two) on top. Press down to flatten the pastry.
Return the pastry to the oven. Reduce the heat to 180°C and continue baking for a further 20-25 minutes, until the pastry has browned and the sugar has caramalised.
To assemble the cake:
Once the custard is completely cool, it will be very firm. Use an electric hand beater to soften the custard and remove the gelatinous lumps.
Add the liqueur.
Fold in the cream.
Place one sheet of pastry onto a flat platter.
Pipe about 1/3 of the custard onto the first layer of pastry. Place a second layer of pastry over the top and press down so that it is level. Pipe custard onto the second layer of pastry. Lay the final piece of pastry on top and press down so that it is completely level. Pipe remaining custard on top in a decorative pattern.
Decorate with fruit or flowers. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.
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